One of the darkest hours of the Revolutionary War is commemorated in the musical “Hamilton,” when 32,000 British troops arrived in New York Harbor for what would be the Battle of Brooklyn.
Though then-General George Washington’s inferior force of 10,000 inexperienced men would lose that day in 1776, a valiant stand by 256 of his troops at the Old Stone House ensured their safe retreat, and with it the Colonies’ eventual victory.
That house still stands in Park Slope’s Washington Park – and if your “Hamilton” lyrical knowledge is ready for prime time, they’ll be hosting a benefit singalong on Monday night.
“It’s going to be very informal; it’s the first time we’ve ever done anything like it,” says Kim Maier, executive director of the Old Stone House. “It’s one step up from your living room.”
The entire room is encouraged to sing along once the soundtrack begins playing at 7 p.m., with the lyrics helpfully projected on a large screen. Refreshments including beer, wine and a Colonial Cocktail will be sold, and while admission is free, attendees are asked to donate what they can to benefit The International Rescue Committee, a New York-based aid organization providing relief to victims of humanitarian crisis situations.
Besides its role in the Battle of Brooklyn, the Old Stone House itself actually tells the story of a similar time in New York City history. The Continental Army’s defeat began a dark period for residents, who lived under British occupation all through the conflict until their last ships left in 1783. “The occupation was quite ugly,” says Maier, with troops quartered in colonial homes and all agriculture and livestock tied to the British.
“The whole idea of the house, through bearing witness to this battle and what it meant to be living in Brooklyn through the occupation, is a really interesting conversation,” explains Maier, “especially for Brooklyn schoolchildren, many of whom have come from countries that have experienced their own struggles for democracy, whose families have lived through an occupation.”
Though the singalong is not affiliated with the musical, it does fit well with the Old Stone House’s other creative programming, including summertime theatrical productions on its grounds that have included “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” But most days, it hosts more mundane kinds of American activity.
After being rebuilt in the 1930s and opening as a museum in 1997, the house now holds civic council meetings, community gatherings and cultural programs most days. It commemorates the battle on its grounds every August, though this year will be a bit more special for its 240th anniversary, including the opening of a new exhibit.
In this, the Old Stone House and “Hamilton” share a common goal: forging a contemporary link to Revolutionary-era history. “As a show, this incredibly relevant conversation [about the ugliness of politics] and the diversity that Lin-Manuel Miranda has brought to these characters is great and it’s made it very accessible, this history that often makes people’s eyes roll back in their head,” she chuckles.
But for her, the story won’t be complete until Hamilton’s friend and rival Aaron Burr gets his due. “I just think that he has a little bit of the underdog about him, and he gets a little bit of a bad rep along the way.” she explains. “History’s from the perspective of the teller, and there are two sides to every story.”
Shout it to the Rooftops: A Hamilton Singalong
March 7, 7-9 p.m.
Old Stone House, 336 Third St., Brooklyn
Free, donations encouraged